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20th December - 'Thy Will Be Done'

Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Today’s gospel passage from Luke is deceptively familiar. So familiar that it can be easily lost on us. When we hear these words spoken, do we really listen to them? Do we fail to appreciate that what we hear is the greatest ‘Yes’ ever uttered in history; the beginning of the greatest story ever told?

If we fail to hear, it’s probably because our own stories, our own lives, with all their clamour and noise, with all their drama – both good and bad – deafen us. Listening is a virtue, which requires much practice. It is the virtue of obedience. Obedience, from the Latin, oboediens, means to listen, harken and obey. When religious take a vow of obedience, it is a vow of listening to God’s word, often mediated by superiors. Few of us are naturally great listeners, but we have to persevere because when moments of change and trial are upon us – that is when we need to listen most.

Our lives, as Blessed Mary’s, have their life changing moments. The kind of moments, after which, nothing is ever the same again. Sometimes we may not immediately recognise them, but on looking back we can see them. We may fall in love; get married; change career; first come to faith; find our vocation; lose a loved one. Nothing is ever the same again. Depending on circumstance, change can be easy for us or very hard, and we can respond to such change in two ways; we can face up to it or we can run away and pretend that nothing has happened. We can ignore our responsibilities to each other; to our families; to God and the Church. Or we can we face them as Christians, listening in faith to God, that he will walk with us and guide us, regardless of what we may face. We have to make our choice. We have to listen.

For Blessed Mary, that day of the Annunciation was perhaps the most alarming imaginable. We read that, ‘she was greatly troubled’, by Gabriel’s words. She had every right to be so; this was no ordinary day. She must have felt that all was to change and that though such change would bring with it great joy, there would follow an inevitable suffering. The Angel seeks to reassure her; ‘do not be afraid Mary, for you have found favour with God’. On being told that she will bear Jesus Christ, ‘the Son of the Most High', she responds will a simple question; ‘how can this be since I have no husband?’ Her words are few; she is attentive. She has long listened in her heart to the word of God and seeks only clarification. In the stillness of her heart she is prepared to face the momentous change to come; she is happy to face such change, in spite of all hardship, in order to serve the God she has always pondered in her heart. Ultimately she is reassured that, ‘with God nothing will be impossible’.

Now Mary, though sinless, was otherwise like us. She was a human being, with all the hopes and fears common to our state. She had free will; she, just like us, had the power to choose. In faith, with a listening ear, she placed her trust in God. She said yes. She uttered the Fiat – let it be done - that would forever change her life and the life of all humanity. Such courage, such trust and humility, can only come through taking time to listen. It comes through taking time to be with God in the stillness of our hearts.

The Incarnation; that great moment in salvation history – when the Word was made Flesh - was made possible by a humble woman’s faith and trust in God. Our Lady knew that her true happiness and fulfilment lay not in running away from this great responsibility but in facing it in faith. She had learned to listen to the Word of God and to trust, to let go and allow God to be God. She had learned to say; ‘thy will be done’. I wonder, amid the clamour and noise of Christmastide, can we do the same?

Graham Hunt OP


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